Is Virtual Reality The Future of Dance?

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By Carla Escoda

Those who think virtual reality (VR) is solely the province of gamers, adventure-seekers, and simulation builders may be startled to see how dance-makers are employing the technology on screen. For the first time, the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, which opens on Thursday, Oct. 19 at San Francisco’s Brava Theater, will be screening a handful of 360° and VR dance films that play around with a variety of effects designed to yank the viewer into another world.

Then there are the dance films that seek to put viewers literally at the center of an unfolding tradition, rather than create a sense of disembodiment. Works like A History of Cuban Dance and the Paul Taylor Dance Company 360° Brochure offer viewers a unique perspective on the evolution of a body of work. Wandering around a virtual recreation of Cuba with a VR headset on gives you the powerful sensation of the live experience of dance – with no barriers between musicians, dancers and audience. In an amorphous performing space such as the street, I felt I could be drawn into the dance at any time.

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